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Time for a little story-telling, debate and meanderings down memory lane. In another thread this week, there was some mention of Roy Halladay's dominant nature (oh hell, that's been true every week this site has existed, hasn't it?) with sidebar mentions of Steve Carlton's 1972 season and others of that ilk. Which got me to thinking -- and now, gets me to asking, all ye loyal readers and posters in Bauxite Nation -- what's the most dominant pitcher season you recall ever seeing?

For the record, now -- screw the "records," now. Nobody say anything about statistical dominance or best ERA+ or anything of that nature. No mentions of Christy Mathewson or Ed Walsh unless there are truly elderly Bauxites out there who actually saw Addie Joss and Pete Alexander pitch. For me, there are four names that come immediately to mind ...

... and I should start by saying that as great as Carlton was in 1972, I don't remember him from that season (Hey, I was six!) ... so my memories start a little later.

The first truly dominant starting pitcher I remember marvelling at was a pinstriped Gator named Ron Guidry who went, if I remember this right (let's not look anything up, folks -- go by what your memories tell you) 25-3 for the 1978 Yankees. The little lefty was every bit his Louisiana Lightning nickname, and then some. But at the age of 12 and living 650 miles from Yankee Stadium, I was more closely attuned at the time to the rehab efforts of Mark Fidrych and the stalwart starts of Jack Billingham, neither of whom belong on this list. All I really remember about Guidry '78 is that he was awesome.

By 1985-86, I was 19 going on 20, in college, and more aware of the sheer dominance of two young obviously-Hall-of-Fame-bound righties named Doc Gooden and Roger Clemens. Each won two dozen games, Doc in '85 and Rocket the next season.

Gooden '85 was the greatest pitcher I ever saw, no question. He threw 140 MPH and had a curve that broke eight feet and ... okay, the haze of memory may have enhanced those specifics a little. Clemens was just about as good the next season; among other moments, he set a new single-game strikeout record that in the two-plus decades since only he himself has matched in a nine-inning outing. In my memory, Clemens threw harder but Gooden's repertoire was nastier.

Postscript to my 20-year-old self: What things can happen on the way to Cooperstown, hey?

So is one of those two, Dr. K. and Rocket Roger, the most dominant pitcher I've ever seen? No. Brace yourselves, Blue Jay fans -- the greatest one-season -- okay, two-month-stretch -- hurler I've ever had the pleasure to see pitch is a former Jay, a fella who almost single-handedly kept the Blue Jays from a post-season appearance half a decade before Pat Borders, of all people, would win a World Series MVP.

That's right, Bauxites, I take you to the year 1987 and the exploits of the temporarily greatest pitcher who ever lived, one Doyle Lafayette Alexander. In fewer than a dozen starts for the Tigers, Ol' Alex was 9-0 with an ERA well south of 2.00. No, I don't have to look those up; I lived about 40 miles from the Corner of Michigan and Trumbull -- that'd be Tiger Stadium -- so the voice of Ernie Harwell proclaiming "Doyle does it again!" on WJR radio is a very clear memory.

The Tigers pretty much rode Alexander into the post-season, where the wily vet (sort of the anti-Gooden) had his gluteus handed to him twice by the eventual World Champion Twins. Well, it was worth the ride and all it cost the Tigers was a trading chip in the form of a young minor-league pitcher nobody had ever heard of ... kid named Smoltz.

In a nice piece of symmetry to conclude this wander down Memory Lane, John Smoltz had one of the most dominant pitcher seasons of the 1990s, winning 24 -- a magic number, the same total that both Gooden and Clemens peaked at -- but, all due respect, he comes nowhere remotely near the list of the four pitchers mentioned above.

Guidry won the most games, 25. Clemens had the best career and got to the World Series during his display of dominance. Gooden was the most preternaturally talented. But the greatest, most dominant pitcher I ever saw was, during the last two months of the 1987 season, the inimitable Doyle Alexander. Hand him the ball, sit back, and wait for the eight-hit complete game shutout. That was Alexander '87.

Okay ... who's next? I personally can't believe I got all the way through this piece without mentioning Tom Seaver, my personal all-time favorite player, but as great as he was for as long as he was, I don't remember his best year (1969) and his remarkable '77, split between the Mets and Reds, isn't quite Guidry-esque. Who gets your "vote," sends you into "hey, I remember" mode? Johan Santana? Mike Scott? Roy Halladay? Greg Maddux? Name the pitcher and the year and what you remember most ...

Just give him the ball and get out of the way ... | 18 comments | Create New Account
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92-93 - Saturday, March 14 2009 @ 04:22 AM EDT (#197216) #
Two seasons immediately come to my mind. When Roger Clemens came over to Toronto, he capped an incredible run of 3 CY Youngs in a row with the Blue Jays by following up Pat Hengten with 2 great seasons. In Rocket's first one, 1997, he went 21-7 with a 2.05ERA and 1.03WHIP. He tossed 9 CGs and 3 SOs for a total of 264 innings, and had a nice 4.7 K:BB. Pedro Martinez in 1999 went 23-4 with a 2.07ERA. He only threw 213.3 innings, but managed to rack up 313 Ks with an insane 8.5 K:BB and a 0.92WHIP. What's scary is that he had 2 other seasons just as good.

It's a shame that we'll likely never know if these incredible pitching performances were tainted.

nanook - Saturday, March 14 2009 @ 10:20 AM EDT (#197218) #
Four names come to mind, and I'm afraid three will date me, but here goes.
J.R. Richards pitched for Houston and just blew people away. His career wasn't long, but he had a couple of years where no one wanted to face him.
A name a few of you might not be familiar with is Sonny Seibert. I was a young fan and baseball was limited to one game a week on TV, so most of my memories of him are from radio, but he had an fastball that looked like a BB and if he got it up and in, you were done.
Any list of utter domination can't be complete without Mr. No-Hitter, Nolan Ryan. I remember when he broke into the league as a raw kid with an unhittable fastball, when he could get it over the plate. Those first few years you walked or K'd. Getting a loud foul off this kid was a big deal.
But the one truely, completely, dominant pitcher of my youth was Bob Gibson. It seemed like he took as a personal affront if you even managed a weak grounder to second. And hit one out, don't get too set in the box next time. Overall, pitching was so dominant, the league lowered the mound in that era and Gibson was probably the most dominant of all.

Chuck - Saturday, March 14 2009 @ 10:42 AM EDT (#197219) #

Wow, J.R. RIchard. That's a blast from the past. I remember when he had his stroke and his career abruptly came to an end, after he had finally found control and become a dominant pitcher. He was basically Randy Johnson before there was a Randy Johnson. And like Johnson, it took him until age 29 to finally put his game together.

For those too young to remember, check out his numbers, particularly his final season. For some reason, I thought Richard had passed away but his Wikipedia entry says that I'm way off. Sad that he was homeless and destitute at one point.

Mylegacy - Saturday, March 14 2009 @ 06:43 PM EDT (#197225) #
When I were a young 'un I 'member this here righty used to throw for the Jays. It were years ago - long 'afore they was contenders. His name was David Andrew Stieb - I recken he was named "Andrew" on account of his parents wanted the little fella to be like thier hero, General Andrew "Stonewall" Jackson. Least wise that's wot I always thought.

Back in September 2nd of '90 he threw a no hitter against the Cleveland Indians! Yes sir - only no hitter in Jays history! Interestin'ly in '88 he had TWO CONSECTUTIVE no hitters broke' up in the ninth with 2 out AND 2 strikes! Over his 16 years he had a 176 win, 137 loss record with 103 complete games and 30 shoutouts. His career whip was 1.245.

Say, did I mention the kid threw a hellatious slider?

Yep - good ol' Dave - his middle name was after a Confederate General ya know - by the way - did I mention there was talk from the old scouts that Davey boy could throw on hell of a slider. Did I mention that?

John Northey - Saturday, March 14 2009 @ 10:59 PM EDT (#197228) #
There have been a few flashes in the pan guys - Alexander's 87, Pascual Perez for the Expos that same year went 7-0 in 10 starts to push them close.  Of course Stieb's near no-no's to end '88 (2 in a row - still find it hard to believe, plus the 3rd one the following season).  Clemens '86.  Henke for quite awhile was a lock in my mind, as was Ward in 93.  But for pure fun to watch while dominating I'd say Mark Eichhorn's 157 relief innings (iirc) in 86 was the best.  He made all the core right handers (Rice, Armas, Evans) look silly swinging at pitches a mile out of the strike zone that year.  Now that was fun.
Alex Obal - Saturday, March 14 2009 @ 11:44 PM EDT (#197229) #
Best recent example? How soon we forget: Francisco Liriano, 2006. Great googly moogly. What could have been... (and still might?)

I think Rich Harden's 2009 could end up on this list.
Alex Obal - Sunday, March 15 2009 @ 12:02 AM EDT (#197230) #
(That link was supposed to go to Liriano's WPA game log. This one should work.) The guy was 22 and the Twins basically got him for nothing.

Would be nice to see Brett Cecil do the same thing for the Jays this year... though it might be asking a bit much.

MikeS - Sunday, March 15 2009 @ 08:34 AM EDT (#197231) #
Well I am old enough to recall Sandy Koufax's 1965 season. 4 no hitters including a perfect game. Two shutouts in the World Series against the Twins including the clincher. He was absolutely dominant. He pitched 352 innings that year and was gone by the end of the 1966 season. No pitch counts for Koufax. All I wanted to be when I grew up was a pitcher like Sandy Koufax. By the way, that didn't work out :)
MikeS - Sunday, March 15 2009 @ 08:46 AM EDT (#197232) #
Sorry, I padded those Koufax no-hitter figures. The 4 no-hitters were career, but the perfect game was in '65. Still, a hell of a year!
nanook - Sunday, March 15 2009 @ 11:19 AM EDT (#197235) #
How could I have fogotten Koufax?
Isn't old age grand?
But really, it's either a foggy mind, or a larger strike zone, but I rember more dominant picthers from the late '50s and '60s than I do from this era.
timpinder - Sunday, March 15 2009 @ 03:58 PM EDT (#197238) #

I'm not sure where to put this, but Rotoworld is reporting that the Jays have assigned Brett Cecil to the minors.  With Cecil gone and Brad Mills giving up 5 walks and 4 hits over 4 innings today, I would guess that Richmond is a lock and Janssen might have the inside edge for the last spot.

By the way, we just got back from our first trip to Dunedin and saw three games.  Absolutely amazing.  I would strongly recommend it to any serious fan.  The players are very approachable and you won't have a problem getting seats in the first three rows over or beside the Jays' dugout if you order in January.  We're going back every year from now on.

slitheringslider - Monday, March 16 2009 @ 12:57 AM EDT (#197243) #
In my 14 year as a baseball fan, without a doubt the most dominant pitcher I've ever seen is Pedro Martinez in the late 90s through the beginning of this millenium. He makes hitters look ridiculous. No matter what he throws, the hitters just can't seem to make contact with it. When he wants a strikeout, he can will one. Everytime he pitches, you think someone amazing is going to happen. Aside from Tim Lincecum, I can't say the same thing about any other pitcher in today's game (maybe Rich Harden when he is healthy). Pedro just owns hitters.

The other pitcher I want to vote for is Randy Johnson. Back in the late 90s, he last years with Seattle, it seems like everytime he goes out he threatens to break Clemens' record of 20K a game. He owns everyone. He can just throw 1 pitch the entire game and he will probably still own everyone. He can tell the hitter what he is throwing and they probably still can't hit it, that's the sign of dominance.

MikeS - Monday, March 16 2009 @ 08:15 AM EDT (#197245) #
In the late 50s and 60s the pitcher's mound was higher which certainly helped the pitchers. Also, I don't know if this is just an old timers cliche but in my memory pitchers were more vigilant about pitching inside, Guys like Gibson and Don Drysdale were warriors in that regard.
Matthew E - Monday, March 16 2009 @ 09:52 AM EDT (#197246) #
Among seasons that I personally paid close attention to, I'd like to put in a good word for Mark Eichhorn, 1986.
andrewkw - Monday, March 16 2009 @ 10:22 PM EDT (#197268) #
This is a great question I'm going to have to go with the early 90s version of The Big Unit.  He wasn't quite refined and still very wild but he was racking up near or more then 300ks.  Although he was also still racking up the walks left handed hitters, great left handed hitters were legitimately afraid to face him.  John Olreud was hitting about .425 but he'd still sit against Johnson.   Then he got even better.

christaylor - Tuesday, March 17 2009 @ 10:56 PM EDT (#197275) #
That guy was incredible, me & my flex pack that year can vouch for it...awesome, but, probably he'll never be that good again.
christaylor - Tuesday, March 17 2009 @ 11:00 PM EDT (#197277) #
Since we're talking about the all-time ace of the Blue Jays, I'll have to be a bit of a downer and add that I was inside Henderson hospital in 1989 whilst the Jays were visiting CLE on that fateful day -- my uncle was busy dying of cancer (lukemia) there at the time. However, my nana, my gameboy and the Blue Jays got me through those trying times.
Glevin - Thursday, March 19 2009 @ 08:02 AM EDT (#197292) #
I would have to say either Pedro or Randy Johnson in their primes. Just untouchable. Nolan Ryan was also incredible when he got on his hot streaks. This was reminding me of the weirdest non-dominant year I remember. In 1993, Mike Moore of the Tiigers went 13-9 with a 5.22 ERA and a 1.479 WHIP. Terrible, right? Amazingly, Moore threw two  one-hitters and a two-hitter that year. It's pretty rare for a guy that bad to dominate three starts like that although I also like Todd Van Poppel's brief Tiger stint where he threw 36.3 innings with a 11.39 ERA and a 2.26 WHIP which somehow included a 5-hit shutout.

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